When you’re leading an operational team or a project, it gets busy. Sometimes you take things for granted. It can be easy to overlook the way people in your team are interacting. Positive team behaviours are those that foster teamwork, good team spirit and efficiency. Negative team behaviours are clearly the opposite. They create friction, decrease productivity and cause stress.
In this post, I’ll look at my five favourite positive team behaviours which make the difference between an effective and dysfunctional team. You might think some of these are obvious or take them for granted. It’s just like common sense, right? Sometimes it doesn’t seem all that common!
However, I’ve led and worked in teams where bad team behaviours are commonplace, adding that extra unpleasant edge to the working environment.
When you see issues with adverse team behaviours, you need to nip them in the bud, quickly. Failing to do so can result in divisions appearing within the group. Small factions that subtly war against each other. This can only get in the way of productivity and effective working.
Showing respect is one of the easiest team behaviours in many ways, but it has a big impact on teamwork. When your team members aren’t respectful to each other, small issues become large and tempers flare. Resentment can slowly build as each team member starts to see signs of disrespect. This might originate from one person, or many.
Simple respectful behaviour includes saying hello, goodbye, please and thank you. You might remember being taught these in your childhood home, or at school – but how quickly some people forget! This also includes showing respect for other people’s time and skills. It might even mean apologising when you’ve made a mistake.
It’s not rocket science. But we need to make common courtesy a lot more common in the workplace.
You may have a problem with respect in your team if:
- You notice some team members dumping work onto others or failing to recognise the workload of colleagues
- Certain team members don’t appreciate the work of others in the team
- You notice some team members delegating tasks they feel are “beneath them” to others who they deem less important
- More helpful team members become overloaded with work while others don’t offer to help at all
- “Please” and “Thank you” are alien concepts to some team members.
Flexibility with role boundaries
The best teams I’ve worked in are those that share the workload, regardless of the role they play within the team. Team members are willing to pitch in and help, even if it’s not “their job”. This promotes a collaborative, collegiate atmosphere which can really motivate team members.
They feel that they are part of something. That they’re “all in this together” and that somebody will help them if their in trouble. Support within a team is critical to employee engagement, and it doesn’t just come from the leader.
You may have a problem with role boundaries if:
- People are consistently using terms like “your job” or “your report” or “your deliverable” rather than taking a team view. They are distancing themselves from responsibility and blame. You want “your deliverable” to become “our deliverable” or “our team’s deliverable”
- People in one role are overloaded with work, while others are easily coping, without offering to help.
Sometimes, role boundaries become more pronounced when team members feel that someone is not performing. They may feel less obliged to help, because they feel that the team member is lazy, incompetent or otherwise incapable. Leaders need to be wary of this. If they are letting poor performance fly under the radar, then leaders are likely to see clear delineation between roles.
Of course, there are some tasks that need to be performed by a specialist in the team. Not all work is transferable!
Credit where credit is due
One of the nicest team behaviours I see happens when team members openly share the credit for work, or publicly recognise another person’s contribution. It shows trust, a collaborative attitude and respect. It also demonstrates an absence of competitiveness that may undermine the effectiveness of the team.
You may have a problem with giving credit in your team if:
- You notice a team member taking all the credit for a piece of work performed by multiple team members
- Team members take the “default credit”. They don’t openly claim the credit, but instead of identifying the contributions of others, they say nothing at all. While sometimes this could be an oversight, it may point to acceptance of the credit on the team’s behalf, with no recognition.
Another great team behaviour to look out for is general helpfulness. Obviously, being helpful is a desirable quality, but if your team is not working well it can be one of the things that slowly fades.
When your team members offer to help colleagues with their tasks during busy periods, it’s a great sign that there is an element of team harmony at play. Without helpful team members, balancing workloads can be tricky. Some team members may be overloaded with work, while others are easily able to cope.
You may have a problem with a lack of helpfulness if:
- Your team members adopt a “it’s not my job” mentality to the work of other team members
- There is an absence of offers to help other team members when they need it. This may be a sign of an “every woman or man for themselves” attitude, which generally fosters an unhelpful team environment.
When your team is working well, team members are more likely to show accountability for their actions and deliverables. They tend to take ownership of their work and have a greater sense of pride. In addition, you may notice team members start to hold others accountable too. After all, if your team is all in this together, then it matters that others are playing their part as well.
When your team members show accountability, it means you don’t need to take everything on yourself. Your team will play their part and take ownership of their work. Ultimately, you are responsible for what happens in your team, but it helps when your team cares as much as you do.
You may have a problem with accountability in your team if:
- Team members routinely point fingers at each other to lay blame
- Team members plead ignorance, “I didn’t know I needed to do that”
- Your team members seem to lack commitment or motivation
- Team members use languages to keep them at a distance from blame. They begin speaking in terms of “your work” instead of “our work” or “our deliverable”. In other words, they are subtly letting everyone know that it’s not their fault!
There you have it. My five favourite team behaviours that point to team effectiveness and harmony. It’s difficult to see all of them working all the time, but as long as your team is improving, you’re on the right path.
You might notice some overlap between these team behaviours. They aren’t all mutually exclusive. But if you see these in your team, you might just be doing something right.